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September 2019

The number of trees destroyed by elephants in late Winter is alarming.

With their need for moisture, elephants do a lot of damage in debarking trees ( mainly Marulas ) or knocking trees over to get to the succulent roots.

Once elephants ring-bark a Marula tree, the cambium layer that acts as a conduit for nutrients from the roots to the leaves is no longer in place and the tree dies.

Ring barked Marula Tree at Tremisana

Ring barked Marula Tree at Tremisana

There have been numerous attempts to protect Marula trees. These include introducing beehives, covering the trunk with chicken wire mesh, having a ring of rocks around the base of the trees and even painting foul smelling ointments on the bark. At Marula Boma we have a ring of loose rocks and it has worked well since January 2014. The band width is about 3 metres so any elephant would be unable to step across. If they step on the loose rocks, these wobble and the elephant feels unsure of its footing and retreats.

We are also fortunate that the Marula tree at the Boma is a male so there is no added incentive for the elephant to get to any fruits.

 

GAME-VIEWING REPORTS FROM OUR GUIDES

JANNEMAN Reports

September was a wonderful month in Balule. On one Sunset Drive we saw the Big 5 within 2 hours.

A lot of Giraffe, Kudu and Elephant were seen often around the riverside, where there is still some succulent greenery on the trees. The higher parts of the reserve are very dry and rain will be appreciated by all.

For two weeks we saw 3 Dagga Boys (old timer buffalos) around Tremisana dam.

We regularly saw a wonderful pod of hippo at the Olifants river.

Hippo pod in Olifants River

Hippo pod in Olifants River

Bushwalks had their own excitement : on one occasion we were gathered around a huge termite mound with the guests learning about the termites’ habits.  All of a sudden an elephant woke up behind the termite mound (that’s how big the termite mound was – we couldn’t even see the elephant on the other side). I think the elephant was more surprised than we were. But what a close encounter that was. We were all frozen stiff in our shoes, not even flicking an eyelash.  We stood like this for at least 2 minutes before the elephant decided to move along. The relief on the faces of all (including ours) was a sight to see!

The highlight of the month was the leopard we encountered on one sunset drive and of course the Hyena with her 3 cubs at a den on Oxford property.

 

ELIAS Reports

Now that we have traversing on the Oxford and Cambridge 1 properties, Viva is having excellent sightings.

Night time sightings of lions are always exciting as they are on the move.

Lions drinking at waterhole before commencing hunt

Lions drinking at waterhole before commencing hunt

On a Sundowner Drive, we saw 3 buffaloes at Tremisana dam along with a few impalas. On Oxford we saw giraffes, kudu and zebra. At the Olifants river we saw many elephants with their babies. Further on we had a spectacular sighting of 18 hippos. We had our sundowners while watching them.

On a Sunset Drive we saw one hyena at a waterhole busy drinking water as the sun was setting. Then we located a black Rhino with a baby. Then I drove to the place we call Mhisi Kaya that means hyenas home where a hyena clan has set up a den in an unused termite mound. There are three lovely black little ones that always make my guests say “ooh” and “aah“. At Marula Boma we saw 3 hyenas and honey badgers.

I went out on a Bushwalk with Fortune and my clients. We saw lots of elephants everywhere and many hippos.

On a Sundowner Drive on Oxford we saw elephants, giraffes, zebras, impalas, lions and White Rhino. On Campfire property we saw a beautiful leopard.

 

VICTOR Reports

On the 4th September 2019 it was a very hot day between 23 to 36 degrees Celsius. From Orpen boom gate to the reception we saw general game including zebras and impalas. We then took the H7 and before Phelwana bridge we saw a big buffalo herd. At Ngwenya Kaya ( Crocodile home ) we saw the resident crocodile right next to a herd of thirsty elephants.

Crocodile forced to share his pond with thirsty elephants

Crocodile forced to share his pond with thirsty elephants

At Ngirivana waterhole we saw a big male lion lying down under a tree. At Nsemane dam we saw elephants and giraffes busy drinking water.

After lunch we took the H6 to Nwanetsi picnic spot where we saw three cheetahs lying down under a tree. On the S100 we saw a female leopard up a tree and around Xibotwana waterhole s100 we saw two white rhinos. On the way out we had a fantastic sighting of a pride of twenty-one lions crossing the road in front of us. Brilliant day !!!

 

CHARL Reports

This has been a busy month for drives and I also did some volunteer work for the Global Youth Wildlife summit, for which Viva Safaris very kindly donated 3 open vehicles with guides.

Night drives on Motlala and Tremisana have paid off well with a few very special sightings. One Sundowner drive at Tremisana that stood out for me started quietly with a few scattered herds of elephant and antelope. Just before stopping for a sundowner we managed to locate a hyena den where the pups where playing outside – something special for the guests so see.

Hyena mom and pups

Hyena mom and pups

We then drove on Imagine Africa property where we located a female leopard with her young male cub. We managed to stick with them for around 20 minutes while all our other rangers were called in to come and view what a lucky sighting hey.

Motlala drives have been exceptional : leopard, black and white rhino and aardvark commonly seen on the reserve – all 3 being very rare to see. But what is very special for us is a 3 year old female white rhino that has just been brought back to the reserve. In 2016 her mother was poached – she was just a tiny baby – the decision was made to send her away to get raised.  We are so happy to have her back !

 

BERNARD Reports

I would like to say thanks to my kind GM for the opportunity I had to go away for a month. Not only did I see a bit of the world but I learned a lot about hamadryas baboons and got to understand them better. I am very happy with the work that I could participate in, and feel it was very positive. It might seem strange to put it in such way because we mainly used paintball guns. But in reality far worse methods were on the table from the Saudi Arabian side to use.

I am very happy to be back at Tremisana Lodge. This month was really special. I started my first drive seeing a beautiful white rhino bull which stuck around for a while. The bush is very dry but still is beautiful. I am seeing some really nice birds. The Sunsets are brilliant.

Wonderful Sunset shot

Wonderful Sunset shot

The hyena den is always a bonus. With three small cubs and four bigger ones the guests always see it as a treat.

I appreciated the opportunity to go to Durban. I really enjoyed it. Was a good experience to travel and see a bit more of the country.

My best week since I started back in February, would be the week from the 17th September. I was doing a Sunset Drive and managed to see the big 5 before getting to Boma. And a second leopard on the way back. And so it was for four nights in a row I got to see 2 leopards !!!  Really, really lucky !!! Each night I was doing my sunset drive and saw 3 out of 5 twice and the evening of the 20th September 4 out of 5. I did a morning drive on the 21st driving to the hyena den and observing with the guests and all off a sudden a black rhino cow with calf approached. Really was a wonderful week.

 

RAYMOND Reports

On the 1st in Kruger we found a pride of Lions on S100 feeding on a buffalo. Together with the white lion, there were five males and eight females. One of them walked past in front of us.

On our way back we found a  big herd of elephant crossing the road.

At the waterhole at Orpen Reception we found a big herd of Buffalos and before the boom gate we found two cheetahs hunting.

On the 14th at Tremisana Lodge there were over 40 elephants and three Buffalos next to the water hole in front of the Lapa – the guests went mad !!

Buffalo at waterhole in front of Tremisana Lapa.

Buffalo at waterhole in front of Tremisana Lapa.

On the 16th we found a pride of Lion with their cubs at Rome 1. It was fantastic as they all lay down in the road.

On the 22nd in Kruger we had three sightings of Lions : Fourteen of them at H7 before Nwamatsatsa bridge on the river bed, two at Shimangwana dam eating a kudu bull and fifteen at Nsemane Dam chasing a giraffe !!!

 

REX Reports

Bush walks have been good with lots of elephants and always good views of hippos and crocodiles.  Sunset drives have often yielded elephants at Tremisana lodge and a pride of lions at Campfire.

We have seen both Black and White Rhino and I have had a good month with Leopard sightings.

Motlala Reserve at Marcs has been brilliant with buffalo, rhino and leopards seen virtually every drive.

In Kruger we have had fantastic sightings of all big five. There are many huge herds of elephant.

Massive herd of elephants passing our open vehicle

Massive herd of elephants passing our open vehicle

 

PATRICK Reports

3rd :  Hot day, sightings good : lions Nsemane dam, buffaloes h7,elephants h7 Ngwenya area, leopard s147 one way road and white rhino near Timbavati.

9th : Hot day again, sightings good, elephants, buffaloes and lions at Nsemane dam, leopard s100.

14th : Sightings good :  big male lion before Orpen reception,  elephants Orpen waterhole, lions  Nsemane dam, leopard first view point and hyenas north of Satara.

19th : Lions s40 road and at Girivana waterhole, elephants Nsemane dam, plenty general game including buffaloes s100.

23rd : Sightings good, lions Ximangwanini, Nsemane and s100, elephants Nsemane dam and s100, white rhino s100 drinking, leopard s147 and buffaloes h7.

Leopard near my open vehicle - brilliant photo opportunity

Leopard near my open vehicle – brilliant photo opportunity

25th : Windy difficult to see :  lions Girivana waterhole,  leopard s147, elephants Nsemane, Hyenas north of Satara, Honey Badger h7, buffaloes s100 and Nsemane dam leopard last view point.

BRILLIANT MONTH   !!!!!

 

ERNEST Reports

We had great sightings on Kruger around all water points : animals have to drink and predators are awaiting them.

We have seen many attempted kills.

On a number of occasions we have seen elephants chase whole prides of lions including males.

We had excellent views of 2 lions on a giraffe carcass.

Lion on Giraffe kill north of Satara

Lion on Giraffe kill north of Satara

 

On one day I saw two Leopards, Wild Dogs chasing a Hyena and two Cheetahs in the same area – absolutely fantastic good luck.

 

FORTUNE Reports

My best sightings for this month :

At Rosy’s pan North of Tremisana Lodge we saw 4 lionesses and some cubs playing around very close to the females.

A Big male lion lying next to the road on S12 in Kruger.

Elephants sparring east of Campfire  – I was with Bernard – we also saw leopard that day but I didn’t manage to take a picture – was too dark.

Elephants sparring near Campfire Dam

Elephants sparring near Campfire Dam

 

JORDAN Reports

September was a great month for game viewing, the bush is dry and thinned out, allowing for better viewing.

Leopard sightings have been amazing on the Motlala game reserve. multiple sightings of the dominant male and resident females, most of which should be pregnant – babies should be around in the coming two months.

Brilliant shot of leopard on Motlala Reserve

Brilliant shot of leopard on Motlala Reserve

 

Rhino sightings – both Black and White – have also been amazing.

Looking forward to October and hopefully some rain in the dry bushveld

Greetings from the bush

 

NEWS FROM OUR LODGES

TREMISANA

Tremisana Report September 2019

Vincent Van Gogh once said:

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream”

When night falls here in the bush at Tremisana the stars certainly come out in full force and watching them and seeing a shooting star now and again, makes this the perfect place to dream one’s dreams.

With a little grey duiker running around in the garden and the warthogs not far behind him, we can truly say that we are blessed to be working in the bush.

Spots of colour are coming through on the flowering trees and the Frangipani is blowing its wonderful scent around the lodge.

The baboons have been very mischievous inside the lodge and every single dustbin has been ransacked frequently for something to eat.

Around the waterhole we had a lot of visitors including buffalo, giraffe, elephant, hyena and impala to the joy of the guests!

The lack of early spring rain is apparent around the lodge. One can see far into the bush so if you are sitting in the lapa you can spot the wild animals quite easily in the distance. Guests often sit there to relax and just chill with a glass of wine, watching the stars, dreaming their dreams……….

Tremisana hostess, Pretty Matsane, wearing traditional Zulu beadwork on Heritage Day

Tremisana hostess, Pretty Matsane, wearing traditional Zulu beadwork on Heritage Day

 

KATEKANI LODGE

It has been a busy month at Katekani with lots of guests coming and going. We have also had some extra special visitors around the lodge – a pack of 15 wild dogs using Katekani as their chosen home for a few weeks what a pleasure to have them around.

Wild Dogs at Katekani Lodge

Wild Dogs at Katekani Lodge

 

MASANGO CAMP

As with last month, we have been busy.

Guests that have come have thoroughly enjoyed their time. They find it very affordable and entertaining them around the fire or bar is a pleasant experience for all.

Thanks to Connie and Caroline who are doing sterling work.

MARC’S CAMP

With the bush drying up out there, we have noticed an increase in the number of animals moving in and around the lodge, especially at night. We have a group of kudu, buffalo and giraffe moving around giving the guests lovely up close time especially on bush walks.

The sightings of leopard have increased. They seem a lot less nervous than those at Tremisana. We think this is so because of the absence of lions on the Motlala Reserve.

The nyala are very hungry and are extremely tame.

Nyala feeding on kitchen scraps

Nyala feeding on kitchen scraps

 

MARULA BOMA

This is really proving a big hit ! Thanks to Pretty and Riana who have now give all our newly arrived guests a complimentary shot of Amarula liqueur to toast their safari experience.

On Saturday 28 September we had some special guests :  Piet and Susan Barnard and 6 friends. These are the owners of “Barnards “ – a property we are fortunate to traverse.

They and the other Viva guests had amazing luck  : While they were seated at the dinner tables, Elvis, our chef, heard an animal scream. He then saw a leopard take a civet up a tree a mere 25 metres from the Boma – affording excellent viewing.

I include a photo taken by one of our guests below :

Leopard with Civet up a tree at Marula Boma

Leopard with Civet up a tree at Marula Boma

 

 

NEWS FOR OUR TRAVEL PARTNERS

With the recent xenophobic flare-up and the odd incident of violence and assault, we are more determined than ever to provide a safe and completely secure safari experience for our guests.

Apart from the new 2 day Blitz safari, who need to get to O R Tambo airport on their own steam, all of our packages include home/hotel/hostel/airport pickup and dropoff. This is done to minimise the occurrence of possible crime. Our drivers will see to it that our guests are escorted to and from the front doors of their hotel, hostel, home or the entry gate to O R Tambo airport.

At the lodges, I have instituted further security improvements. All gates at Tremisana are now locked after the return of Sunset Drive guests and we have increased security at Marcs, Masango and Katekani.

Theft and vandalism occur even in the bush. I left a pair of binoculars on an old Cruiser that I managed to get stuck in the sand ( I discovered the 4 x 4 no longer worked and once again my wife Sandra let me have it ) and the next morning they were gone.

I regret to inform you that we have reason to believe that at Marula Boma our “Viva Safaris Marula Boma “ sign was forcibly removed.

On Monday 30 September, our staff found the stump on which the sign was hanging in the road and noticed the sign was missing. They thought that the elephants were responsible and looked for 30 minutes all around for it. They were surprised they could not find the sign and upon closer inspection realised that a pair of pliers was used to remove the sign. I initially thought that it was some teenager prank to steal a sign for his bedroom but new evidence supplied by our staff now points to family of a fellow landowner. What a shame if this is true ! I sincerely hope our staff are wrong !

I had Given, our master carpenter and Aron, head of maintenance, devise a plan to weld, bolt and brick in the new sign. It won’t be easily removed.

New sign that is bolted, welded and cemented

New sign that is bolted, welded and cemented

Thanks again for the wonderful support you guys give Viva Safaris. We have had another exceptionally good month. With the increase in tourist numbers we are proud to advise that we have employed yet another tourist guide, Solly.

The National Co-Ordinator of our Workers Union, the National Union of Food, Beverage, Wine, Spirits and Allied Workers, is extremely happy with the way Viva Safaris supplies work to the many unemployed people in our region. He advises that as and when more people are employed, the incidence of crime will be reduced. He is fervently encouraging Viva Safaris to expand.

I attach the following reviews posted in September 2019 :

TREMISANA

“An African Dream Come True”
– Catmar12, Scotland

I have just returned from the most amazing adventure of my life all thanks to the wonderful and welcoming staff of Viva Safaris. From Tremisana Lodge to Marc’s Treehouse and Katekane I had the experience of a lifetime, each providing their own special magic and incredible staff. They all catered to my fickle eating habits with a range of lovingly prepared food for everyone. Individual meals beautifully prepared for vegetarians, pescatarians, vegans, gluten free and a delicious variety of meats all beautifully presented. I honestly have never ate so much food in my life. Tremisana’s tropical gardens with waterfalls, ponds, trees, flowers all growing around the pathways that lead to the lodges, reception, eating area, swimming pool and bar all lit with beautiful solar lanterns are truly stunning. The lodges are clean and comfortable with everything you need. The beds are very comfortable and covered by mosquito nets for your protection. The eating area (Lapa) provides a view of the Balule Reserve, part of Greater Kruger allowing you to see giraffes, elephants, buffalo, warthogs, birds and vervet monkeys which can be seen up close. In the evening the watering holes also attract lions, hyenas and very rarely a wandering leopard. The whole setting screams Africa and from the moment you step inside the gate there is no doubt that you are in Africa. A full itinerary allows you a variety of game drives, Bush walks, visits’ to Kruger Park, Tshukudu Lodge and Wildlife Rehab Centre. The wildlife guides will having you laughing at their antics and impressing you with their knowledge of animals and the Bush. All of this is included in the price, no hidden charges. The only money you may spend is at the bar or gift shop. When you first arrive a game viewer awaits you to take you on your first game drive followed by an outdoor dinner at Marula Boma, a beautiful setting in the heart of the Bush where you will be served a tasty evening meal in the company of honey badgers, hyenas and the occasional elephant. The setting is beautiful, with lights, candles and tables set for dinner. The visiting animals can be viewed up close and you are protected by a circle of large stones that keeps the animals from entering the area. Viva Safaris also arrange a pick up from Johannesburg from your accommodation or airport on your arrival and departure at no extra cost. The cost is extremely reasonable. I am a lady in my 60s and I travelled alone. Viva Safaris took away the worry of getting from one place to another and I felt safe the whole time. The friendliness of the staff and their eagerness to help with anything, no matter how trivial is always their top priority. Thank you Viva for continuing to make my dreams a reality and I look forward to seeing you all again.

MARCS

“Beyond our Expectation”
– Ponn V, Bangkok Thailand

Going first time to African safari is daunting. We expecting everything to be bad. So when we experience the great service level, great staff and decent food. It’s beyond our expectation.

The first impression is the driver who pick us up from the hotel in Joberg. He is really friendly and explain manything along the way.

Then comes to the driver at night safari who is very knowledgeable.

Then the dinner which is a good quality food.

Then the breakfast with the best Banana (I come from Thailand, trust me, I know what good banana taste like.

Safari experiences is Awesome of course. All the way.

With the price that you have charge. I will tell everyone to come.

Best Regards.

KATEKANI

“Safari Lodge”
– angelobruno, Italy

Lodge in mezzo alla savana, fantastico!!! Lussuoso e confortevole!! Camera enorme con doccia, vasca e piscina personale!!! Ci si sente molto coccolati!!! Il personale è fantastico!!! Colazione, pranzo e cena TOP!!! Cuoco eccezionale!! Consigliatissimo. Unica cosa è che ci sono poche camere e di conseguenza pochi ospiti (che può essere un bene a volte). Viva safaris siete i migliori!!!!!!!!

VIVA SAFARIS

“Amazing Start to Finish!”
– Connor D

We booked the three day tent tour. It was a once in a lifetime experience and exceeded our expectations.

The accommodation was comfortable, good nights sleep, close to showers and bathrooms and was truly surrounded by nature.

The food was nice and always served with a smile (and monkeys for company!).

Jordan took us on a sunset drive which was incredible, we saw 3 of the big 5 on the local reserve with a sunset and beer backdrop.

Fortune, our Kruger guide, was incredibly knowledgable, we saw the big 5 (at least 2 different sighting left of them all) and many many more! It was a once in a lifetime experience.

Amazing photos and unforgettable memories!

Thank you Patrica and all the staff.

 

 

Read more reviews for:
Viva Safaris,  Marcs Treehouse LodgeTremisana Lodge and Katekani Tented Lodge on TripAdvisor.

 

Until next month…

With kind regards,
Piero
General Manager
Viva Safaris